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'Great excitement' among hospital workers as COVID vaccine arrives in WA

The first shipment of COVID vaccine for Washington state arrived at Sea-Tac Airport Monday morning. For hospitals, it was a moment for some celebration.

Cassie Sauer, CEO of the Washington Hospital Association, told reporters it was nice to share good news for a change.

“It’s a good day because vaccine is here, and vaccine has landed in a number of our hospitals,” Sauer said. “It’s being unpacked, the planning is under way, and there is great excitement about that as we want to quickly move through vaccinating our frontline health-care workers.”

Intensive-care unit doctors and nurses and others who work directly with COVID patients will be the first to get the vaccine. In much of the state, that’s likely to happen later this week.

Hospital administrators say they are quickly training workers on the specifics of the Pfizer vaccine, which has to be stored at an extremely cold temperature.

June Altaras is chief nursing officer for Tacoma-based MultiCare. She spent all weekend in webinars with the FDA and the drug company getting up to speed on storage and other particulars about the Pfizer vaccine. She says one requirement is that people be observed for 15 minutes following their shot and that presents a challenge.                               

“We’re trying to assure that the spaces we have allow for the 6 feet of social distance for people to have that 15-minute observation period while we’re trying to get as many people vaccinated as soon as possible,” Altaras said.

It will be quite a while before vaccines are available to the general public. Health-care workers say that’s why it’s important for everyone to continue following mask and distancing rules and not assume the virus is no longer a threat.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.